When we launched our brand, Monozygotics, in May 2020 (I know, we chose a great time to try to start a business didn’t we!) we started with a collection entitled A Boys Best Friend. It’s a pretty famous line from Psycho (famous as a Hitchcock film but originally a book) which was one of the main inspirations for the collection.
We were both finishing uni that year, so this first collection was really a graduate collection that we promoted and finished as a real collection. That means it had a whole years worth of research and theory behind it – which I’m going to try and explain in a quick blog piece.
There seem to be these universally accepted links between sex and death, women and violence, porn and horror.. and questioning these apparent connections was the start of our research. We turned to horror films as an obvious representation of women surrounded by violence and here we found three stereotypical roles that seemed to trap women in a cycle of disempowerment.
They were; the victim – the classic damsel in distress, always in need of saving, The Sex Object – an overly sexualised woman presented as morally corruptive and almost not human due to their objectification, and finally the mother – a woman totally lacking in sexuality or power but with her whole being and purpose centring around her motherhood – often the mother is an influential figure e.g. in Psycho she drives Norman’s psychosis and is his other personality.
In film we can see the obvious ways in which clothing is used to reveal or conceal aspects of a characters identity (in Psycho Marions innocent white bra at the start becomes an black ominous black one after her robbery) and we decided to create clothing that forced wearers to reveal all their secrets.
We are all guilty of wearing clothes to emphasise or disguise the features of choice, and can even feel different when we throw on a suit versus a tracksuit, but just how far can this transformation go? We know that for Norman Bates donning a dress and a wig brought about a full physical and mental change. And the rest of the time he disguises himself as an innocent young boy through his modest, im-memorable clothing. Clothing full of weak wrinkles and marks that suggest he is incapable of dressing himself – even less capable of murder. Similarly in the film/book American Psycho (which we have to assume took some influence from Psycho – or at least has the same influences that Psycho had!) the serial killer Patrick Bateman’s success is due in large part to his perfect disguise as a business man, his immaculate attention to details and perfection in every way both conceals his murderous tendencies, and simultaneously reveals that something is wrong and he has something suspicious to hide. We are even given subtle hints to his true self with attention to the pinstripes he wears – stripes have historically been associated with social deviants such as pirates, prostitutes and prisoners.
We argue that Psycho is a slasher film, since it plays into deep male anxieties and desires (read Carol J Clover 2015 for more theory on this – we aren’t making it up!) Norman lives in fear of overbearing feminine traits (stereotypical as they may be) and also takes his power from stereotypical female traits such as rage, helplessness and victimisation. In a sense both Normans Mother (the mother) and Marion (the victim) serve only to fulfil Normans desires and anxieties in this film. The same can be said for American Psycho in which women exist merely for him to harm as much as he desires.
From a fashion perspective its amazing to see how the costume designers in both of these films have consciously created outfits that disguise to the point of fooling us, the viewers. And we can never really view the clothes as separate to the bodies that wear them – the way they are worn changes them, they wear away, they get stains, they take on signs of their wearer. The way that they fit the body changes the way the body moves in return, forcing slow walking, the constant rolling up of sleeves, etc.
After all of this research we decided to really play with the idea of clothes creating a character and designed a collection focused on individuality, the clothes themselves bursting at the seams with details about the character we imagined wearing them. The mother wore tight clothes that forced her to hunch over like an elderly woman, the buttons on her jacket were tiny and fiddly forcing her hands into frantic, difficult movements. The clothes of the sex object bore cigarette burns and had lingerie receipts in the pockets, even the victims clothes bore tiny stains of blood and tiny tears or worn away patched indicating a fall or struggle.
Clothing can say so much, even when it’s worn to hide some details it just can’t help but reveal even more. This is one of the reasons that we love it do much. And we wish that more brands would share the in-depth research that inspired the items they create. At Monozygotics you can ask us why that button is there, when we used that colour thread, why the fabric choices were made and we will have a relevant reason to back it up. Imagine if you knew that much detail about every item in your wardrobe, it would make you treasure them in a whole new way.